Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. So when clients say to me they have personal high standards for themselves, they are proud of them because they have enabled them to achieve so much, I get that. And I also make a note of it. (and I still make a note when I notice my own high standards) Here’s why.

Adjusting your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. tell a friend

Usually these clients have done bucket loads to help their recovery. Regularly doing physiotherapy, learning about the medical condition, reading books, taking up new hobbies and more. But they find they still aren’t where they want and expect to be.

Pic of a person with a disability sitting, crying and wondering why they still don't feel good even though they have been doing a lot to help themselves.

That is often when we start working together. I can see how their high standards are one of the things getting in the way of them finding a sense of peace in living in their changed bodies. Here is a typical example of what that looks like in action.

Personal high standards can create a vicious cycle

Client decides on a task or an activity to do or sets herself a goal.

She has to put in more physical effort to complete the task, activity or goal than in her pre-illness days.

Client worries about having the physical ability and stamina to finish the activity or task.

She compares herself and abilities to her pre-illness self. (This is where pre-illness high standards take over.)

Client continues trying to complete the task, activity or goal to the same standards as pre-illness.

But it’s taking a long time and it’s a lot harder.

She feels anxiety as a result.

Client does not relax.

She therefore does not enjoy the activity.

The client gets upset with herself.

You can see how the high standards from her pre-illness days were making were making her life difficult. They can lead to a vicious cycle and get in the way of a person making the change they want for themselves.

When your body has changed considerably, you end up putting a lot more physical, mental and emotional effort to do things you once did. And that can make it difficult for you to meet your pre-illness high standards. The high standards suited your body and capabilities as they were then, not now.

Pic of a person trying to push a heavy rock of personal high standards up a hill but not getting anywhere. Another person tells them that they adjusted their standards and they have been easier to carry ever since.

I’ve noticed that when people realise this and importantly, acknowledge this is their reality, that can then free up their energy to do something different to help themselves get to where they want to be.

Acknowledging your high standards are no longer achievable or difficult to achieve may not be an easy process

This needs to be respected I feel. The person is experiencing a HUGE change, often a life-changing change, which they may be finding traumatic. How their illness or injury occurred could also have been a traumatic event for them. Gentleness and compassion are needed.

I want to explain why this process of acknowledging their reality and adjusting personal high standards after illness or injury is not always easy for people.

1. When you experience a life-changing illness or injury, you don’t know what you don’t know

As I’ve said in previous blogs, it’s not like you get a handbook on how to deal with the change, adjust, move on with your life and be happy. So of course, you will be operating to your pre-illness or pre-injury standards. It is what you know.

2. Your willingness in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury plays an important role

Your willingness will have an impact on how you adapt to living with the impact. Unwillingness to adjust can take several forms.

Your willingness to adjust your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury plays an important role. Read more here. tell a friend

2a. You don’t give yourself choices

Some people can operate in a such a way where they don’t give themselves choices in adjusting their personal high standards after illness or injury. For example, ‘I can be like I was or not. Not being like I used to be is not an option. So I’m going to do things as I used to do.’

This can feel a very black and white approach to the situation where only one way is acceptable.

2b. You associate your high standards with who you are as a person

If you associate your high standards with the sense of who you are as a person, your sense of identity, this can make it difficult to adjust them. For example,

I am a high-achiever.’

When we say I am such-and-such, the I am is fixed. There isn’t much movement to it.

Instead, have a go at saying, 

I work hard and put in a lot of effort to do a lot of things very well.’

That is more process-based, which means it is based on behaviours, i.e. working hard, putting in a lot of effort. When you make your way of being in the world based more on behaviours, there is more movement and flexibility. You can start to adjust how hard you work, how much effort you put in to things. (I am really hoping this makes sense, but if not, leave a question in the comments and I’ll respond.)

If you also place a high value on being this way as a person, this too can contribute to less willingness to adjust your high standards. For example,

am a high-achiever and it’s a great way for me to be.’

This can be hard to let go of. And I get why. Being the high achiever could have served you very well and you’ve done great things with it. There can also be that fear of,

‘If I let go of this, will it mean I am any less great/good as a person?’

Not only are we adjusting our high standards of ourselves, we are also adjusting the value we place on those standards and the value we place on ourselves as a consequence of living to those standards. It’s about adjusting your high standards and maintaining your self-worth.

2c. Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury means you are acknowledging what has happened

When adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury, it also means you are acknowledging the change you’ve experienced. If the change was unwelcomed and not wanted, which most serious illnesses and injuries are, acknowledging the change can be harder.

Pic of a person with a disability sitting down and crying about having to deal with the change they never would have chosen for themselves and not being able to accept it.

I am using the word acknowledgement on purpose. Many times I hear people say accept. Re-read the previous paragraph using the word accepting instead of acknowledging. Notice any differences you feel.

Sometimes the meaning people give to the word accept can have a not-very-helpful impact on their adjustment process. (I will be writing more about this in the future, but for now if you want to share with me your experience of acceptance in the context of living with a serious health issue, there’s more on that below.)

The above three reasons explain why being willing to adjust our high standards can be hard and why this process must be handled with respect, care and compassion.

But having high standards isn’t a bad thing

I am not saying having high standards are bad and you can no longer have them. They can have a positive impact:

  • Motivating you to set goals and strive to meet them, which is great for your psychological health (provided the goals and the process are striving towards them are not harming you or others physically or psychologically).
  • Enabling you to achieve more than you originally thought possible.
  • The sense of achievement can feed your self-worth.

All good stuff.

Important Tangent: It’s recommended that your sense of self-worth comes from many sources, not just achieving things particularly if it’s to gain the approval of others.

Having personal high standards when living with #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury isn’t a bad thing. The key thing is being able to adjust them as and when you need to. tell a friend

The key thing is adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury to the person you are now physically and psychologically. This is one of the things which helps to bring that sense of peace back into your life. And it’s an ongoing process. You can continue to adjust your personal high standards throughout your life.

A mind map of what helps you to adjust your high standards of yourself after illness or injury. Being wiling to adjust them is key.

What’s it like for you?

Does any of this resonate with you? What has helped you in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to adjust your personal standards, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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